Friday, December 30, 2016

it's (just past) christmastime in the city

On Wednesday morning I joined my mom and 21 year old Emily for a trip to the Big Apple.  I believe I've mentioned before that my own 21st birthday celebration also had a New York theme, and that theme was Long Island Iced Teas.

Emily's theme was the Museum of Modern Art.  She really wanted to see the original Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh because she is very sophisticated.

A local tour bus company offers day trips to NYC, so we hopped on the bus at 8:30 and were deposited in Times Square at quarter of eleven.  I sat beside Emily on the bus and as we got rolling on the New Jersey Turnpike, Emily pulled out a bag, a mirror, and began applying her makeup, most notably, mascara and eyeliner.

I'm here to tell you that I apply my eye makeup standing in my bathroom mirror in my stationary house, and I still get it all over my face on a not infrequent basis.  Emily applied it while sitting on a coach bus whizzing down the NJ Turnpike at 70 miles an hour and it was flawless.

Maybe I need to re-think my makeup strategy.  Perhaps Matt could drive me around in his old pick-up each morning so I can put on my eyeliner.

When we got to the city we wandered down 6th Ave for a bit past all the fancy business headquarters and to see if we could snag Emily an eligible and financially secure bachelor.  No luck in that department, but we did get our pictures next to these nutcrackers.

We ate lunch at Rosie O'Grady's, and after that made our way to the MOMA.  It was more crowded than we anticipated, but we made a beeline for the fifth floor and there it was, The Starry Night.

I'm no art aficionado, but I will say that the painting was absolutely beautiful in person.  The colors were so vibrant and if there hadn't been a security guard standing there and the consequence of a felony, I would've brought it home and hung it in my living room.

From there we wandered through a few more galleries and then my mom said what I had been thinking, which was "I'm not sure I understand why some of this is considered art."

The next gallery featured this particular larger than life piece of art that to my untrained eye looked like a bunch of crayon and pencil doodles.

People were ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and my mom whispered to us, "I threw away hundreds of pieces of paper that looked just like this when you kids were little."

Sounds like my siblings and I were prodigies whose calling was overlooked.

 After that, we unintentionally but happily walked right into a small cafe offering only one thing: a cup of pour over coffee for $4 flat, with cream and sugar if you so desired.  Nothing fancy and no frills.  We bought a few cups and sat in that fourth floor cafe looking out a wall of windows on the sculpture garden and the city and drank our coffee and chatted and it was lovely.  Not to get all sentimental but it's not lost on me that I enjoy my family so much (and they love me enough to invite me to a girl's day like this).

We walked through the sculpture garden on our way out of the museum, and this was the first sculpture we saw.

My mom gasped, and said "Oh no! That one fell over."

I lost it.  And then we left.

We went to see some other art in the form of diamonds at Tiffany's.  Tiffany's is right next to Trump Tower, so we had to go through a police checkpoint to get there.

 It was worth it though because Emily got a necklace, and my mom was told there are no prices on any item in Tiffany's because your heart needs to fall in love with it first, no matter the price.  My mom's heart fell in love with a pair of sunglasses that the saleswoman then informed her cost FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE AMERICAN DOLLARS, and that love affair ended quickly.

After that, we walked by the windows at Bergdorf Goodman's...

...down 5th Avenue...

...and through St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Mom and Em had been there before but I hadn't, so they sat in a pew while I walked around and to the small chapels behind the altar.  It was so beautiful I almost cried.

We snuck out a side door and made the terrible mistake of walking past Saks Fifth Avenue.  Listen, I am no NYC expert, but I've been several times, and I have never experienced it like this.  We literally could not walk.  It was shoulder to shoulder people, and we just got pushed along with the crowd.  It was impossible to turn back around, so we went with it, but it was a little scary and probably took 20 minutes to move one block.  Because the city was prepared for New Year's Eve, there were metal fences along the sidewalk, so you couldn't even cross the street.  As soon as found a break in the barrier, we crossed the street to Rockafeller Plaza to check out the tree, but since it was so crowded we viewed it from the periphery and kept moving.

This was out front of Saks.  You can see the heads of ALL THE PEOPLE.

We were home by 9 and exhausted but happy from such a fun day!

Yesterday I just hung around, and today my siblings and I exchanged gifts because my brother was in town.  Annabelle opened her gifts too, and may we all be as excited about presents as she was.

We did a sibling pollyanna this year for a change, and my brother had me.  He got me a scarf, a new set of colored pencils, and a giant coloring book of wilderness scenes.

I'm going to go start on it right now.

Maybe next year, we will be visiting one of my own pieces in the MOMA.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

so much celebrating

Well, Christmas 2016 is (almost) officially a wrap.

Last Thursday night I finished up the rest of my wrapping.

Unfortunately, as I wrapped a pair of PJ pants for my dad, I cut a giant hole in them.

And so, on Friday morning, I had to add a stop at Kohl's to my list of errands to run, and therefore went to the three worst places ever to go on December 23rd.  Kohl's, the grocery store, and Sam's Club.

It's a Christmas miracle that I didn't lose my mind, but I came out unscathed just in time to meet my dad and Emily for lunch at Grub Burger.

We rarely do things just the three of us, so lunch was fun and delicious and a great kickoff to a weekend of family.  After lunch, I stayed at my parents' for a bit and my mom and I set the dining room table for Christmas dinner.

On Christmas Eve, Matt and I went to his aunt's house after church.  I lucked out in the white elephant Pollyanna because I chose #18.  That meant I could steal, and so I stole a Magic Bullet blender from Matt's cousin.  We've already ground coffee beans and made about 12 smoothies which will hopefully cancel out the 235 bacon wrapped sausages I enjoyed at the party.

We got home late on Christmas Eve, but made a fire and watched a Christmas story.  On Christmas morning, Matt and I exchanged gifts and then he made Rudolph pancakes for breakfast.

My parents hosted Christmas dinner and my dad made prime rib.  He carved it at the table and it was so fun and fancy.

Also, delicious.

On Monday we spent the day celebrating Christmas with Matt's dad and step-mom's side of the family.

Emily turned 21 on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we spent the day in NYC.

And tomorrow morning my siblings and I will exchange our gifts and Christmas will officially be over.

Just in time to start celebrating New Year's.

And take a long nap.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

a little pearl for your wednesday

I have so much that I want to write about Christmas.  I mean, Matt bought me a butter churner so that alone deserves it's very own post.

(This is my, "It's Christmas morning and I can't believe I just opened a butter churner" smile.)

But, I have to go to sleep so I can be up at o-dark-thirty tomorrow because my mom, Emily, and I are headed to NYC for the day to celebrate Em's 21st birthday.  She wants to visit the Museum of Modern Art to see the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, which is an impressive 21st birthday pursuit.  When I turned 21, I pretty much just wanted to drink long island iced tea.

But first, let me introduce you to Pearl.

When our English Springer Spaniel, Rosie, died in April, I didn't think my parents would get another dog.  But they started talking about it a few months ago, and yesterday, they picked up little Pearl.

She's a Springer Spaniel and she's the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Of course, I can just pop in and visit her, and don't have to worry about training/housebreaking/actually caring for her, but still.  You can't get any cuter than this.

Friday, December 23, 2016

very merry

Yesterday afternoon I turned on my out of office email indicating I wouldn't be back in the office until January 3rd, two thousand SEVENTEEN, and then I practically skipped to my car with glee.

I had big plans for my first day of Christmas vacation, including but not limited to sleeping late and staying in my pajamas until noon.  And then I woke up at 5:30 when Matt got up for work and could not go back to sleep.  It's now 7:30 and I've already wrapped two presents, made a meal plan and grocery list for the entire month of January, cleaned two bathrooms, and emptied the dishwasher.

I need a vacation from my vacation.

Speaking of the dishwasher, as I was putting the detergent in last night, Matt said, "If there's any extra room in there, would I be able to put the chickens' water trough in?"

God love him for asking, but that answer will always be no.

Now I'm sitting on the couch with a second third cup of coffee, and just finished reading a sweet little story in a Christmas short story collection.  
One of my most vivid Christmas memories from childhood is sitting on a brown and gold striped love seat that was passed down from my great-grandmother.  The love seat was typically in our living room, but because of the Christmas tree, it was in the dining room.  I was drinking a cup of tea (which was probably mostly just a cup of cream and sugar, much like my coffee is right now), and reading Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot.  I remember Christmas music playing and my parents bustling around to get the house just perfect for the holiday.  I couldn't tell you what presents I got that year, but I sure do have that memory.

Sitting on the couch this morning, with my blanket and my coffee and my book and my Christmas carols feels very similar.  Except I'm about 20 years too old for Sleigh Bells for Windy Foot.

This whole week has been full of holiday cheer.

On Friday night, my friend Michelle got engaged.  Michelle and I lived together in college and for a few years after college, and often joked that we were hesitant to get married because we were afraid we wouldn't have as much fun living with our actual husbands as we did we each other.

Three years in and I can report back that, thank goodness, we had nothing to worry about.

Michelle is the one person in the world I know I can call and say "Tell me if I'm being unreasonable/dramatic/overreacting," and then tell her my current situational dilemma, and she will never, ever, EVER say I'm being unreasonable/dramatic/overreacting.  She will always side with me.  Even when I look back and think, "Hmm.  I might possibly have been a wee little bit dramatic," in the moment, I know Michelle will be on my side.  She also shares my love of Cher, Shark Tank, and a witty play on words.

On Saturday my uncle had a Christmas party, and then on Sunday I had two friends over in the afternoon.  When I started my job five years ago, I instantly became friends with two of my coworkers.  We don't spend 40 hours a week together anymore, because now one is a lawyer and one is a mom, but on Sunday we ate cake and cookies and drank coffee and while I'm grateful for many things my job has given me, those friendships top the list.

Around 4:30, we heard sirens blaring.  We looked out the window, and Santa was riding by on a fire truck.  My friend Rose opened the door and ran after him.  Santa has a bit of a lead foot, but we finally caught up with him about three blocks away, and as we approached the fire truck we asked for a photo.

Santa said, "Sure, should we wait for the kids?"

Um, no kids.  Just us late twenties ladies in hot pursuit of a photo opp and a free candy cane.

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

one more post about christmas shopping

When Michelle and I lived together after college, we sent out Christmas cards.

My favorite was when we dressed up like trees and mailed out a card to all of our family and friends that said, "Have a tree-mendous Christmas."

We even sent one to Hoda and Kathie Lee in hopes that our cleverness would get us a guest spot on the fourth hour of the Today Show, but that call never came.

I couldn't convince Matt to dress himself up like a tree this year, so I selected a photo we already had for our Christmas card.  We went to a wedding in May, so I chose that photo since we were all spiffed up and both wearing blue.

When Matt asked me which photo I chose, I said, "one from the wedding," assuming that he'd know exactly which wedding I was referring to.

A little while later, Matt said, "Maybe you should rethink the photo.  I think it's a little weird to send  picture of us that's three years old."

When I said "the wedding" he thought I meant OUR wedding.  Which yes, would definitely be weird three years later.

Our cards just came in and I'm heading to the post office tomorrow to send them out.  This year I got them from Tiny Prints, and I love how they turned out!

Tiny Prints had so many cute things on their site this season, so I picked up a few extra gifts.  I got this "L" coffee mug and notepad for my mother-in-law.

I also ordered this neat metal print for my mom, it's her favorite picture of us kids.  And because I always buy one gift for myself when I'm shopping, I ordered this neat curved glass print of my favorite park for my office!

If you need a last minute gift, or are sending out Christmas (or New Year's!) cards, definitely check out Tiny Prints!

And Merry Christmas, from us!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

all aboard

Last Friday I had a meeting in downtown Philadelphia, which therefore meant that I also had a week-long internal debate with myself about whether to drive or take the train.  In the end, I decided I'd hate driving more, so I headed to the train station bright and early on Friday.  Actually, I headed to Starbucks first because my nerves led me to be 40 minutes early for the train and it was a brisk 26 degrees out.  So, I decided to get a beverage to keep me warm during my wait on the chilly train platform.

Matt takes the train into  the city every day, and he loves it.  In fact, he loves it so much that he regularly checks online job postings for train engineer positions, and knows where and when the train rolls through our town.  For example, it's not uncommon for us to be heading out to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon and for Matt to say, "I think I'm going to take York Road to 611, because if we get the red light at Bradfield we will hit the 2:34 train when it crosses Easton Road."

I rarely take the train, but I guess when I made my decision to utilize public transportation I was still riding high on my successful navigation of the metro when Mom, Emily, and I spent a few days in D.C. this summer.  

Although this is how we looked after a few days of it, so who knows if it was the right choice.

In any event, after a long, chilly wait on the platform, I boarded the train, stuck my ticket in the slot in front of my seat, and then pulled my book out of my bag like the sophisticated, prepared commuter that I am.  I'm currently reading another Dave Barry book, because he makes me laugh and you can't go wrong with Dave Barry.

Except when you pull his book out of your bag on the train and the cover is photograph of Dave Barry sitting on a toilet wearing some festive boxer shorts.

Yikes.  So much for my sophistication.

I decided I'd just hold my book flat on my lap so that nobody could see the cover, and then I found my bookmark, opened the page, and this is the title of the chapter I opened to.

The Toilet Police.

My sophistication officially went right out the window.

I gave up on reading and chose to instead look out the window.

My meeting was in the same building I'd been to before, home of the world's most confusing elevators.  But, I successfully navigated to the sixth floor, only to find it was deserted, with the exception of this sign.  The picture is blurry, but it was asking if I was there for retirement counseling services.

I only wish I was.

I ran into another confused coworker, and we eventually found the meeting on the fourth floor.  

Navigating to the meeting wasn't my biggest concern, it was navigating home, and making sure that I stood on the correct side of the platform.  It's one staircase difference between returning to suburban Philadelphia and traveling the opposite direction to New Jersey.

You'll be pleased to know that I arrived home successfully, and when I got home my mom called and asked if I wanted to go to a Christmas shop with her.

Since I never turn down an invitation for a retail expedition, I agreed.  We plugged the address into my GPS, and when my phone said, "You have arrived at your destination," we looked around, only to find ourselves in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

After a few u-turns and several re-routes on the GPS, we arrived at the store. We walked and shopped and the only thing that could've made it better was if I read Dave Barry as we walked around.

Maybe next year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

i'm adding icy hot and motrin to my christmas list

Tonight I am coming to you live from a Sheraton in central Pennsylvania, where I am sitting in bed eating a burrito bowl from Moe's that I'm going to wash down with a few Advil.

Why the Advil, you ask?

Well, I fell down the stairs yesterday.  And I don't mean I gracefully tripped down a few, or missed a step at the bottom.  I mean one second I was standing in the second floor hallway, and the next I was lying in a pathetic heap on the living room floor.

The reason for my fall was our Christmas tree.  I'd decided to hang some candy canes on it, and as I walked down the hallway I was admiring the festive touch the candy canes added, and forgot that I was approaching the staircase precipice.

We live in a split level, so luckily there were only six steps, but as I laid crumpled on the living room floor, my brain could not decide whether to laugh or cry.

So, I did both.

And now I just want to cry, because my right arm and left shin evidently took the brunt of the fall and are paying for it today.

Speaking of beautiful trees, we bought our first real Christmas tree yesterday.

We'd gone back (Matt) and forth (yours truly) on getting a real tree in addition to our artificial one, but yesterday we decided to stop at a few thrift stops to see if we could come across any treasures.

The very first thrift shop had a tree stand for $25.00, which is just highway robbery.  They told us that Christmas items were all marked down, and that the tree stand would be $15.00.  We were still going to pass on the it, but when we got to the back of the store, Matt found a really nice workbench, with a drawer and shelves and even a pegboard, which is apparently the hallmark of a professional workbench.  He asked the shop owner if she would take $45 for the workbench and the tree stand, and she said yes.

From there, we headed on over to Produce Junction to get a tree.  They had two signs, "BALSAM - $25," and "FANCY - $40."

I'm not sure what in fact made the fancy trees so fancy, but because I am no Christmas tree connoisseur, I said "Balsam works for me."  And five minutes later Matt was carrying our tree through the crowded grocery store parking lot, which was admittedly not as quaint and charming as waltzing in to the woods to cut our own, but BABY STEPS.

I didn't realize all that was involved with setting up a tree.  When I was growing up, my parents brought it in, got it situated in the stand, put on the lights and the garland, and I just swooped in at the end to hang the ornaments.

We brought the tree in the first time, and the hole drilled in the bottom wasn't big enough.  So we carried the tree back out.

Brought the tree back in.  Stand malfunction.

Carried the tree back out.

Brought the tree back in.

There were too many low branches for it to fit in the stand.

Carried the tree back out AND ALMOST LOST MY CHRISTMAS SPIRIT.

The fourth time was the charm, and we got the tree all situated in the stand and it was time to light 'em up.

Unfortunately, I miscalculated just how many lights that would require.

But, I'm happy to report that this was the status at 8:00 last night.

Just in time for me to go out of town for four days.

I'm sad to be away from my beautiful Christmas trees for four days, but at least I won't fall down any stairs admiring them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

'tis the season for various shopping trips

Many nights during dinner Matt and I talk about work, but tonight we had a little musical challenge, called "scroll through Pandora and see who can name more singers/songs."

Matt guessed Eric Church for every single country song.

When an Eric Church song FINALLY came on, he guessed, completely seriously, Curt Clifton.

If you're wondering why you haven't yet heard of the musical stylings of Curt Clifton, that would be because, to the best of my knowledge, no such singer exists.

Matt left for a hunting trip last Thursday, so I was solo for a few days.  I couldn't wait for Friday night to arrive, because I had big plans,  First I went to Sam's Club, and walked up and down every single aisle, taking it all in.  And then I came home and ate cheese and crackers for dinner and slept with all the lights on.  It was glorious.

On Saturday my mom and I did a little Christmas shopping.  I crossed one last gift off my list, and also bought myself a white fur Christmas tree for our mantel.  Matt got home on Saturday night, with the unfortunate news that the only deer they saw the whole weekend was in the driveway on their way to dinner.  The disappointment didn't last for long though, because finally, Penn State won the Big 10 championship game.  I may have teared up with joy.

Sunday marked one year of owning our house.  Sometimes it feels like we haven't made much progress, because HELLO, WALLPAPER EVERYWHERE, but we've done the office, the master bedroom, and the family room from top to bottom, bought a new couch, built a chicken coop and gotten three chickens, taken down two big old trees, planted 20 new trees, had a successful vegetable garden, converted the fireplace from gas to wood, built a new wall in the family room, replaced the back door, and replaced all of the water pipes in the laundry room.

I guess looking back, we've been busy.

On Sunday we decided that if we stayed home for the afternoon, we would spend money on a house project, so we celebrated our house-iversary by leaving the house and heading downtown to Philadelphia's Christmas Village.

We wandered around the Christmas market, bought a souvenir, and stopped by the ice skating rink.  It may sound lovely and straight out of a Hallmark movie to ice skate in a Christmas Village right next to historic city hall, but we watched the rink for a few minutes and I am here to tell you that not one person on that rink was having fun.  Especially not the dad in this photo literally carrying his child around the rink.  There were so many tears.

Needless to say, Matt and I stayed on solid ground.

After the Christmas market, we wandered through Reading Terminal Market.

I could've eaten every single thing in there.  It was a lot more exciting than how I started the weekend, wandering through Sam's Club.

They also had a musician singing carols.

Maybe it was Curt Clifton.